The perennially sublime weather, beautiful beaches, and peaceful islands in Hawaii make it a travelers’ paradise. However, one of the things that people who want to explore the beautiful islands of Hawaii are concerned about is the possibility of encountering dangerous snakes on their nature trails. But are there snakes in Hawaii? Read on to find out.
Are There Snakes in Hawaii?
Hawaii is known to offer somewhat magical natural diplomacy, with both flora and fauna appearing to align with every traveler’s desire to interact with nature without harm.
In this state, endemic flies are flightless, crave crickets are blind, raspberries are thorn-less, and nettles are nettle-less. This tranquility allows humans to interact with nature directly without putting themselves in harm’s way.
In view of this diplomacy, it can be quite shocking to find snakes in Hawaii. Since this American state is an archipelago in the tropics, about 2,000 miles away from the United States mainland, many people assume that it’s laden with dozens, if not thousands, of different species of snakes.
But over the years, the state of Hawaii has had very strict rules for rearing pet snakes on any of its islands.
Traditionally, Hawaii is known to be home to the Brahminy blind snake. This is a diminutive black snake with an extreme fondness for gardens. This snake is said to have arrived in Hawaii in the 1930s from the Philippines through potted soil.
Also referred to as the flowerpot snake, the Hawaiian blind snake, or the island blind snake, the Brahminy blind snake resembles an earthworm and it feeds on termites, ants, and other tiny insects. This snake dwells under large leaves, shells, logs, and hummus. Its average length is about 6 inches.
The Brahminy blind snake is one of the tinniest snakes in the United States and other parts of North America. As noted above, there are very few natural predators in Hawaii. Therefore, even this snake is completely harmless.
This trait makes Brahminy blind snake different from other members of its family in other parts of the world. For instance, the Western Rattlesnake that’s commonly found in California is known to be extremely toxic.
Are There Terrestrial Snakes in Hawaii?
As the world’s most isolated archipelago, Hawaii is uniquely placed on the planet, making it extremely difficult for humans and animals to reach its islands. You have to cross thousands of miles of the open Pacific Ocean to access Hawaii. Therefore, it’s almost impossible for snakes and other terrestrial animals to swim for thousands of miles to the archipelago from the mainland.
This explains why there are very few predators in Hawaii. Even if snakes somehow manage to get to Hawaii, their chances of survival are very slim because they are unable to adapt to the new environment. According to a recent study done by the University of California, invertebrates succeed to colonize Hawaii only once every 70,000 years.
So, terrestrial snakes, which can’t swim or fly across the open ocean like the monk seals, can only arrive in Hawaii by hitchhiking on boats and planes arriving with travelers. Although this migration of snakes to Hawaii is possible, it rarely happens.
The last time a terrestrial snake was spotted in Hawaii was in 2013 when a pedestrian walking in the streets of Chinatown in Honolulu encountered a two-and-a-half-foot-long rainbow boa constrictor.
The same year, a driver on the Pali Highway on Oahu Island ran over a five-foot-long boa constrictor. Twenty-three years before that, Aloha Island reported an infestation of brown tree snakes, which were blamed for the near extinction of Guam’s forest birds.
This rear-fanged species of snake, which preys on birds, was accidentally brought to America after the Second World War.
These serpents descended on the Guam forest like an epidemic and bred so rapidly because of easy access to prey.
Although the population of brown tree snakes in Hawaii has dropped almost to zero, concerns over their arrival through planes and boats are still alive. Biologists in this state are troubled by the ongoing decimation of indigenous species of animals and plants in the archipelago by colonizers coming in through water vessels and planes.
The invasive creatures have rendered the state’s ecosystem fragile. That’s why the state has put in place strict laws that prohibit the rearing of predatory pets like snakes. These measures are meant to protect the indigenous inhabitants like the unique birds found in the Guam forest.
According to Dr. Leonard Freed, an environmentalist at the University of Hawaii, unique species of birds, which are indigenous to Hawaii, like the Hawaiian stilt were almost wiped out by the brown tree snakes during the infestation 30 years ago. Dr. Freed also attributes the outright extinction of the Oahu Petrel birds in Hawaii to the same snakes.
He claims that the snakes invaded the bird’s nest where they used to roost and feasted on their eggs and chicks. Since the birds didn’t recognize the snakes as predators, they didn’t have time to escape.
Although these snakes have since subsided in the archipelago, environmentalists warn that a new invasion would be catastrophic because the snakes would flourish and multiply quickly due to the availability of gullible prey and lack of competition for prey.
To prevent a new infestation of snakes in the archipelago, the state imposes heavy penalties on people found rearing snake pets. You risk going to jail for three years or paying $200,000 in fines for keeping a snake as a pet. Since the year 2000, Hawaiian authorities have confiscated over 100 snake pets.
Many native Hawaiians who have never traveled outside the state have never seen a snake in real life. Nevertheless, there’s a thriving black market for snakes in this state, where snakes are brought in from the mainland and other parts of the world as concealed luggage or in shipping packages. Many stories about snakes in Hawaii, some of which are false, continue to thrive, with some people claiming to have seen a king cobra on Oahu Island.
Recently, reports were claiming that dead cobras, seahorses, and geckos were discovered in wine bottles in Waikiki. These reports have prompted the state authority to offer amnesty to anyone who may be keeping snakes illegally to turn them in without any questions asked. They hope that this amnesty will encourage people to give up their illegal snake pets and help put an end to the snake menace in the state before it gets out of hand.
Meanwhile, watch out for Hawaii’s native aquatic snake – the yellow-bellied sea snake – as it slips through the deep waters. As a cousin of the cobra, this snake is very toxic and its venom can be fatal if you don’t get the right medical care immediately after a bite. But overall, you’re hardly going to find any terrestrial snakes in Hawaii.